Michaela Lobb lives in Berwick, Victoria with three ‘moggie’ cats Vincent, Maximus and Tabitha. When Michaela bought her first house in 2013, she wanted a secure outdoor area for Vincent where he could get fresh air and exercise while still being a house cat. So, with help from her family, Michaela created a simple low-cost DIY catio, which is now enjoyed by all her three cats. And when Vincent, Maximus and Tabitha are not using their scratching posts, napping or playing in the catio, Michaela takes them outside for a walk on a lead.

Michaela says her cats love their low-cost DIY catio so much, she has to feed them inside the house just so she can spend time with them.

This is Michaela’s story of her life with three cats and how she created a low-cost DIY catio that provides hours of entertainment.  Michaela also shares her top tip to remove cat hair!

Pets4Life: How did Vincent, Maximus and Tabitha come into your life?

Tips to keep your pet healthy

Maximus and Vincent in their catio. Photo: Michaela Lobb

Michaela: I got Vincent as a kitten from a Toorak pet shop where they foster kittens from a shelter to help them get adopted.  He looked much bigger than the others with huge ears.  He is now 11 and has grown into his ears and paws!  He is huge!

Maximus was discovered by Vincent in our backyard.  We had recently moved into our house in 2013 and had seen a little kitten with a blue collar running around but I thought he belonged to a neighbour.  It took a couple of months before I realised he had been abandoned, the collar was so tight it was growing into his neck.  Gradually with love and patience and big brotherly bossing by Vincent, Max came to trust us and live with us.  He was covered in fleas and mites and hadn’t been desexed or microchipped.  Max had a condition where his eyelashes on one eye were turning inwards and was potentially going to blind him. After a couple of operations and a lot of care, his eyes are perfect.  His vet now describes him as being glossy with love.  Max will be 4 in November.

Tabitha was part of an abandoned litter that was left at a vet clinic.  The kittens were fostered then adopted out and Tabitha was the lucky last.  My good luck because she is a beautiful, tiny, feisty little girl that can hold her own.  We adopted her when she was just 12 weeks old.  Tabitha is now 2.

Pets4Life:  How did you go about setting up a low-cost DIY catio?

Michaela:  We wanted the catio to be safe not only for the cats but also so it didn’t compromise the security of the house.  Our dream is to have the entire catio made from crimsafe but in the interim, we had the catio built with wooden slats and then covered with a fly screen which stops the insects and rain coming in.  So, the cats have all year round and all day round access to outdoors. Moths, however, do some to make it in somehow which adds hours of entertainment!

Pets4Life: So, what features do you have in your catio? 

Michaela: My parents gifted the cats a 5 tier water fountain to provide them with clean running water – they love it!  The different levels suit their different sizes and drinking preferences.  We run the fountain for a couple of hours each day even if the cats aren’t out there so the water is kept moving and clean.  We use boiled water to keep it topped up!

Our cats love both cardboard and carpet scratching posts and there is one of each for all 3 cats in the catio – although they tend to like to be on the same one at the same time.  As my oldest cat is starting to get arthritic I put his scratching post near his favourite chair to make it easier for him to get up and down.

Our cats love faux fur!  Each chair has a furry blanket and a cushion they love to snuggle into. My tip to remove cat fur is cut up large pieces of contact used for covering books and use that as a big piece of “fur remover”.  Use it once or twice and the whole side of a cushion is de-catted.

We keep a couple of carpet squares in the catio as they like to sit on them when it is colder.  In the warm weather, they love rolling around on the concrete floor.

We keep a kitty litter tray in the catio as well but tucked away in a corner to give them privacy and out of sight for human visitors!

We keep a mix of cat-friendly plants in the catio along with cat mint and cat grass which we rotate every couple of weeks out in the garden to keep them fresh and healthy.  The non-edible cat-friendly plants create a lush, jungle feel and they love to hide and play around them.  My tip – sometimes they like to do their business in the bigger pots which can be a surprise so I just check and scoop when I do the litter tray.

My uncle also put some little ledges we use for toys to be tied and also to keep their harnesses and leads handy by the door to the backyard.  They know all know the “W” word walkies and we only use it when we are ABSOLUTELY taking them out – break a cat’s trust and they won’t listen to you anymore.

Pets4Life: What did your catio cost to build?

Michaela: The catio was definitely created on a low budget!  My uncle built the cat run and my Dad bought the wood which came to $300.  My parents had a water fountain for many years and donated it to me because Vincent fell in love with it while we were staying with them.  The water fountain was about $240.  All the scratching posts and faux fur rugs are old ones that were on their last legs.  We re-carpeted and re-roped them and spent only $60 for all three to be revamped.  We bought the faux fur rugs from Kmart on sale for about $50.  So, a total of around $650 (if you include the cost of the donated water fountain).

Pets4Life: Was it worth the effort to create a simple low-cost DIY catio for your three cats? 

Michaela: Yes, most definitely…the catio has proved to be a fun and easy way to keep our house cats stimulated and entertained – an outside inside!

When Max had to have an eye operation being able to go into the cat run helped to keep him calm and less stressed.

We don’t feed the cats in the Catio – we don’t want to attract ants and other unwanted insects that can be a nuisance.  Also, we like to have them in the house for dinner so we actually get to see them as they love their catio so much!